Summer Reading Program at 20: The Importance of Popularity

A book that explores the role popularity plays in human development is this year’s choice for the Carolina Summer Reading Program. The selection of UNC Professor Mitch Prinstein’s book, Popular: Finding Happiness and Success in a World that Cares Too Much About the Wrong Kinds of Relationships, marks the 20th anniversary of the program at Carolina.

First-year and transfer students enrolling this fall are encouraged to read the book this summer and participate in small-group discussions in the week before fall semester classes begin.

The book examines how popularity affects success, relationships and happiness — and why people don’t always want to be the most popular. Prinstein, the John Van Seters Distinguished Professor of psychology and neuroscience, is the director of clinical psychology at UNC.

“This book is directly relevant to incoming students and can spur tremendous conversation about the challenges of transitioning to college and adult life,” said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp ’92 (JD). “We’re also thrilled to have work by one of Carolina’s own to mark a milestone for the reading program, the 20th anniversary.”

Mitch Prinstein (Photo by Somer Hadley, Revolution Studios)

The program aims to stimulate critical thinking outside the classroom and give new students a shared experience. The discussion groups serve as an academic icebreaker.

Prinstein will give a lecture about the book on Aug. 20 in Memorial Hall.

The book will be available beginning June 19. A 2017 version of this work was titled Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World; the new paperback version, with the new title, includes a new chapter focusing on how adults can achieve the most useful type of popularity.


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